Early sunsets, cool temperatures and the holiday spirit are working together with musicians Sheila Weidendorf and Mathew Habib to create a quiet, contemplative Christmas concert.
Coming together for only the second time, the pianist and tenor singer are putting on a winter performance, “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 in Langley.
Weidendorf, who once studied to become a pastor of the United Methodist Church before finding spiritual pursuits elsewhere, said she and Habib curated a story to reflect the spirit of the season. In so doing, they have also created an opportunity, though not intentionally, for people who enjoy Christmas music but are not Christians or eager to visit a holiday church service to hear the tunes.
“It offers an opportunity to experience the heart of a season without limiting to one particular expression of it,” Weidendorf said.
“What we want is just to offer a beautiful experience,” she added.
The hour-and-15-minute concert will cover a range of music selected by Habib and Weidendorf. As essentially a classical music concert, patrons should expect pieces from Handel’s “The Messiah,” the Christian folk hymn “I Wonder as I Wander” and the carol “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” The title of the performance, “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” is also known as the “Huron Carol” and is a tune taken from the Huron tribe in Canada. Just don’t expect to hear anything about grandma being run over by a reindeer, chestnuts roasting or Frosty.
Taking the somber tone of a traditional Christmas concert will be like taking a step outside on a frozen evening. The world seems still and silent, said Weidendorf, recalling a visit to her father’s family in Minnesota during Christmas and walking outside in the snow.
“There’s a holy moment to be by yourself,” she said.
“It’s the same impulse to kindle the little light that keeps you warm in the dark hours,” she added.
Their performance, if a recent rehearsal is any indication, soars and whispers through the sanctuary at Langley United Methodist Church. Habib, a trained opera singer who sings across the country, bellowed through a few pieces without any amplification other than his own windpipes.
With just the two of them to play for a crowd, when Weidendorf strokes the keys of the grand piano and Habib isn’t singing, it’s up to both of them to retain the attention of people in the pews.
“At the heart of it, it’s a duet,” Habib said. “When the vocalist isn’t singing, the pianist should be highlighted.”
“What’s next is always the next best thing,” he added.
A run through of one piece drew the church’s pastor, Mary Boyd, into the sanctuary. She told them that her aunt used to sing that song, and she thought it was absolutely beautiful.
The Dec. 11 performance in Langley will be the last time for at least a month to hear Habib on Whidbey Island. The day after, he will be in Skagit County for a performance, then flies out for a few weeks in Bend, Ore., where he will sing for OperaBend.
Tickets at the door for “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” are by donation, with $20 recommended for adults and $10 for children.